ZYX is a possibilty with respect to a different cartridge, but if you are having the "trouble" you indicate, I'm not sure I'd look in the direction of the Helikon as the culprit.
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I'm not offering a strong opinion here, mostly just a thought for others to chime in on...
The dealer who sold me my Shelter 501 told me that he had been using a Helikon as his reference cartridge, and that he was so impressed with the 501 that he bought himself a Shelter 901 to replace the Helikon, and was very glad he did. (Granted all this was with a Nottingham table.)
Since then Shelter has introduced the 90X, which I've never heard, but seems to be getting some great commentary here and on AA, and is closer in price to the others under consideration. Perhaps someone more experienced with the 901 & 90X(e.g TWL - Tom, are you out there?) could comment on if these cartriges might fit the bill for Jfrech.
I think one of the high end Koetsu platinums, (like the Koetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum you suggest), would work well. My turntable dealer uses the SME 30 and he only ever uses Koetsu Cartridges. (I think he is now using the "tigers eye" Koetsu cartrdidge.)
One thing though, make sure your phono stage is up to the task, as it has a low output of 0.2 mv.
I use the Koetsu Black, and I am very happy with it. In fact, as it has now broken in, I am considering delaying upgrading to my next cartridge, (the Koetsu Urushi), as this is really sounding good. (That way I can pay for it, instead of putting it on the credit card!) No matter what though, I will keep the Black as a backup cartridge.
Good Luck in your search!
Personally, I feel the Shelter 501(0.4mv) is in every way as good as a Helikon, but has some differences in sonic character, and sounds more like the Koetsu sound than the Lyra sound. I feel the Shelter 901(0.5mv) is definitely ahead of the Helikon, but the 901 has less of the Koetsu "magic" than the 501. The 901 is a more "straight ahead" type of cartridge, but it has lifelike detail, and great bass response. I don't know about the 90-X(0.6mv), except what I have heard said by others, which was that there was a small improvment over the 901, but enough to be significant. I also agree with David(4yanx) that the ZYX R-100 Fuji or R-1000 Airy are superb cartridges that are equal or possibly better in certain areas than the Shelter 901.
I have not heard the Titan, so I cannot comment on that.
I think that the Koetsu Rosewood Platinum is a very fine cartridge, but it has a very low output, and you'll have to use your transformers for that cartridge. From what I've heard, the Koetsu cartridges are much less expensive in Japan, so they could be a very good deal for the money.
All-in-all, it is kind of a nice predicament to be having to decide between all those super-good cartridges. I am envious.
I upgaded from a Helikon to a Titan and teh improvement was
significant in every respect, including better focus, greater transparency and more body, more refined top end. The thing though which really sold me is that it has real slam and presence. I always liked the Helikon but thought that it was a very polite cartridge. This is definitely not the case with the Titan. Given your speakers, the Titan would play to their strong suit. You may want to speak with Jim Meine at Epic Audio in Houston who is a dealer. I would not buy this as a gray market item as the importer will not warrant them.
The Cartridge Man Music Maker is a very high compliance MM cartridge - I think that it is >20um/mN - thus it will be a poor match for Jfrech's SME arm, which appears to be a medium-heavy tonearm.
Similar reasoning for all Van den Hul cartridges.
Maybe 3 others that could make your list are:-
Jan Allaerts MC1 or MC1 Boron MkII
Dear friend: All these 3 phono cartridges are great ones ( I own all these ). You can choose any one. I think that you have to change your preamp ( it has not enough gain ). The best you can do for your music reproduction is to buy a preamp with a built in high gain phono stage ( with out step up transformer inside it ).
"just a little cool in the midrange, just a little hot on the top end and images could be a little rounder"
I've never used the Amperex 7308s in a phono stage, but I do have experience with using them in a line stage. If that is transferable (I don't know) then you might try some Siemens E88CC or E188CC 'A' frames from the early 1970s. These are not too expensive and they are a little softer on top, have warmer mids and give 'rounder' images than the Amperexes. At least that has been my experience in a line stage. I personally like the 'pinched waist' D-getter Amperexes, but finding a phono grade pair would probably set you back and arm and a leg and probably your left nut too! You might cruise Ebay and keep a lookout for some D-getter PQs. Still rare, but not nearly as costly as the 'pinched waist' variety; similar sound. I recently bought a pair of D-getter E88CCs for $30. good luck.
Go the Dynavector. I have both the XV-1 and helikon. Yes the helikon is a little cool in the midrange and a little hot in the top end ( in my system).
The XV-1 to me just seems like a more musical cartridge. It seems to have a better top to bottom balance and is a warmer compared to the helikon. The helikon sounds great but I find I can listen and enjoy a lot more types of music with the XV-1 compared to the helikon. I listen to approx 85% XV-a and 15% helikon. nice to have both
I'm not sure how low a compliance cartridge cartidge you can use on your SME4. (Maybe Twl can enlighten here?) If low-medium compliance is game, then the Allaerts (above) or a VdHul Colibri could be contenders. Ultimately, a Clearaudio Insider -- if you live the "hi rez" style of upper level clearaudio cartridges.
OTOH the big Shelter (which I haven't listened to) has been appreciated in many circles. BTW, isn't Shelter made in Japan -- in which case, maybe worth purchasing there.
Dear Jfrech: As I told you all these cartridges are a great ones and all of them goes fine with the SME IV ( I alredy try on it ). But the Koetsu RSP and the Dynavector are low output cartridges and I think that the Titan goes better with your preamp because is a medium output MC and this cartridge can correct your " system weaknesses ". I can tell you that any one of these cartridges can do the same for your system. The Helikon is not in the same league, these cartridges are far away from it ( in the past I own a Helikon ). BTW, great audio system.
Best wishes and always enjoy the music.
If you're still looking, you might check out the review of the Shelter 90X at:
It seems like it might be what you're after. The reviewer compared it favorably to both the RSP and the XV-1s.
It's got enough output to address the issue Raul just mentioned. In fact I think Raul's heard the 90x and could give you another firsthand perspective.
Hi Jfrech: Tks Doug. As a fact I own the 90X, too, ( I buy this one in place of the 901 that I had it ). As I already told, somewhere in this forum, the 901 is in the HiFi side of music reproduction, the 90X is more refinided but still has a little touch of HiFi cartridge, is a cartridge that always said " I'm here ", it goes with the SME tonearm ?, yes but is not the best match. The 10 Audio review is a little controversial, maybe I put my feedback on it.
Now, if you are a music lover, then you deserves the best in analog sound reproduction and you have to go for the Koetsu RSP or the Dynavector, if you compare the sound reproduction of these cartridges against the live music
you will hear that you are " nearest " of this target. The 90X sound is impresive but in some ways un-natural ( I'm not saying that is a bad cartridge ). In absolute music terms the Titan, the Benz-Micro LP and others cartridges will be a really good second choice, and not because these cartridges are in second place, no, ( in some circunstances are the first choice ) this is what I think and this is my experiences. You can't have a perfect cartridge, there are many issues and facts around it and many of them are out of control, everyday live is a mix of trade-offs, and the analog sound reproduction is no exeption.
Always enjoy the music.